short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dr. Underwood

Dr. Underwood and I had met under difficult circumstances when we were living in Washington, D. C. during my stint of duty at the U. S. Department of State. I had made a Monday appointment at Georgetown University Hospital to which Donnie and I had decided to transfer Noelle’s care. On Saturday, in the middle of the night, while the records were in transit and her care in the process of being moved from one hospital to another, Noelle’s shunt malfunctioned. There was no question where to take her. Georgetown University was five minutes from our house; the other hospital was a 45-minute drive.

The young neurosurgeon on duty that night at Georgetown University Hospital went through the normal procedures to determine that the vomiting and pain was from the shunt and not from a stomach problem. “Tell me how many fingers you see,” he directed 11-year-old Noelle.

“Forget about your fingers,” said Noelle wanly. “I can’t breathe. Do something about that!” With those words, she stopped breathing.

The emergency room was suddenly alive with doctors and nurses, carts and paddles. We were quickly ushered to a waiting room. We would have preferred to stay in the emergency room, but these doctors and nurses did not know us and did not realize that we would not have been in the way and might even have been able to help. Realizing that arguing was going to waste precious time, we complied with the request to wait in the waiting room for the results of medical intervention.

Fortunately, we did not have to wait long. The paddles got Noelle breathing again. The resident informed us that he had called the doctor who would be the attending physician, Dr. Underwood, at this happy hour of 2:00 in the morning and got him out of bed. He would be in soon to install a new shunt portion.

Within just a few minutes, indeed, Dr. Underwood showed up. He told us that Noelle was in acute hydrocephalus (she had not become shunt-independent as many hydrocephalic children ultimately do) and that he would need to operate to repair the shunt. Since no records were available, he asked me to recite as much of Noelle’s medical records as I could remember. As it turned out, it would take three surgeries, each two weeks apart, to get Noelle’s hydrocephalus under control again. He replaced the brain portion of the shunt first, leaving the older tubing in the peritoneum since it was functioning fine. Then he had to replace the valve because I had forgotten to mention that she could not tolerate medium pressure, the default valve type used in cases where records are not available. Finally, it turned out that the peritoneal end of the shunt was not really functioning fine; it had become trapped in the peritoneal tissue and so the third revision in six weeks was undertaken.

Dr. Underwood and I came to know each other well during these weeks. In making rounds after the third revision, Dr. Underwood hesitated as he was leaving Noelle’s room, turned to me, and flabbergasted me with his words, “You know, when I put in the new valve, I looked at the lower portion of the shunt and decided not to replace it since it was working. I could kick myself now for not taking care of it all at the same time.”

How did he dare say that to a parent in these days of rampant lawsuits, I wondered. And especially to me! Did he know that I was the scourge of many clinics and hospitals because I questioned everything the doctors and hospitals did and made them re-think or took my children to different doctors when I thought they were wrong? Did he know that I was an outspoken advocate for my children? Was he not afraid of my reaction upon hearing these words of fallibility? Or did he know that I had great respect for honesty and integrity? Did he understand, intuitively, that I could handle any truth; it was the partial truths and manipulations that caused me to take out my lance and pierce one doctor after another?

Copyright 2010

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About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.